As one of the oldest cities in the country, Philadelphia’s historic landmarks and iconic attractions are a favorite destination for ghost hunters from around the world.
The cells have long been empty at Eastern State Penitentiary, but many believe the spirits of former inmates remain behind the looming walls of the historic prison. In the streets of Philadelphia’s Historic District, Benjamin Franklin is sometimes seen frolicking with his fellow Founding Fathers, while the ghost of famed author Edgar Allan Poe has been spotted ruminating in his former home.
Read on to discover more of the haunted locations and the restless spirits that are said to roam the region to this day.
During the fall, Eastern State Penitentiary hosts the internationally famous Terror Behind the Walls haunted attraction, but the spirits linger here year-round. Take a tour any day of the week to experience the history of one of the country’s oldest and most brutal former prisons. Today it’s considered to be one of the most haunted places on earth.
Where: Eastern State Penitentiary, 2027 Fairmount Avenue
Take a good long look around Independence Hall. Guests who open their eyes (and minds) a little wider than usual just might see the spirits of historical greats like Benedict Arnold and Benjamin Franklin lurking in the walls.
Where: Independence Hall, 520 Chestnut Street
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A post shared by Elfreth's Alley (@elfrethsalley) on Aug 20, 2017 at 6:08pm PDT
Stroll along the nation’s oldest residential street to try to catch a ghostly glimpse of one of the some 3,000 people who have lived along this eerie alleyway through the years. There are rumors that a soldier was hanged on Elfreth’s Alley, and several visitors have even been able to nab what they consider to be photographic evidence of paranormal activity.
Where: Elfreth's Alley, 124 Elfreth's Alley
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A post shared by Kelly (@kellyann_photo) on Jul 21, 2015 at 6:22pm PDT
The oldest zoo in America harbors more than 1,300 animals and, allegedly, a few otherworldly friends. The John Penn house at the Philadelphia Zoo is said to be haunted by the spirit of a woman in a long dress who stands at the top of the staircase. Meanwhile, poltergeist-style paranormal activity has also been reported in the Treehouse Building and The Pennrose Building.
Where: Philadelphia Zoo, 3400 W. Girard Avenue
America’s first national bank was established by the first U.S. treasurer, Alexander Hamilton, in 1795. Hamilton died from wounds inflicted during a duel and left his surviving wife and children with a stack of debt and a haunting spirit. Several years later, when the bank finally reopened, the new owner requested that a priest bless the building. Despite the blessing, it’s said that Hamilton’s ghost still lingers.
Where: First Bank of the United States, 116 S. 3rd Street
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A post shared by Adrian Covert (@adriancovert) on Jul 4, 2018 at 12:02pm PDT
Serving up all of the culinary tradition of the colonial days, City Tavern also regularly dishes out some frightening spirits of the bygone era. Visitors should beware; they could get served by the long-deceased waiter that’s supposedly still always on the job.
Where: City Tavern Restaurant, 138 S. 2nd Street
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A post shared by bobbyhalvorson (@bobbyhalvorson) on Jun 28, 2015 at 2:57pm PDT
American literature’s most beloved teller of dark and mysterious tales spent several years expounding on evil thoughts in Philadelphia. Visitors can stop by the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site on one of the city’s ghost tours, or come alone and conjure the spirit of Poe, which is said to still linger here.
Where: Edgar Allan Poe House, 532 N. 7th Street
Stars like Frank Sinatra, Duke Ellington and Lynn Fontanne have performed here, and Presidents Ulysses S. Grant, Grover Cleveland and Richard Nixon all celebrated within the walls of the Academy of Music. Today, ghosts of bygone days are rumored to still linger. In fact, women have reported sensing invisible companions who have left imprints on neighboring theater seats and even pinched them and pulled their hair. One man saw a mysterious black figure appear and disappear before his eyes. The stories come from the upper balconies, so guests who want to enjoy the true haunted experience should take a seat upstairs.
Where: The Academy of Music, 240 S. Broad Street
The history of the abandoned former insane asylum alone conjures the heebeegeebees — it was formerly named Pennhurst Home for the Feeble Minded and Epileptic. (Yikes!) During the fall months, Pennhurst hosts several spooky Halloween attractions that take visitors through the building and even underground through the 900-foot-long tunnel beneath the facility.
Where: Pennhurst Asylum, Bridge & Church streets, Spring City
The ghost of famous flagmaker Betsy Ross is rumored to be wandering the halls of this historic house in Old City. Visitors say that Ross’ having dealt with the loss of a husband and several children in her lifetime could be why she’s often seen and heard crying in her old homestead.
Where: Betsy Ross House, 239 Arch Street
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A post shared by David Young (@gradydad) on Jun 13, 2018 at 6:34pm PDT
The historic site of Cliveden was host to the Battle of Germantown in 1777, where 57 men met their final fates. Over the years, seances have been known to conjure the spirit of Samuel Chew Jr., a former resident of the house. The list of ghostly encounters doesn’t end there, though. Take a tour and find out firsthand who might still live within Cliveden.
Where: Cliveden, 6401 Germantown Avenue
Named by the History Channel and the Travel Channel to be one of the most haunted sites in the world, Fort Mifflin was the site of a major Revolutionary War battle in which many soldiers on both sides lost their lives. Every Halloween, the fort hosts a “Sleep with the Ghosts” event where guests can camp out and potentially have their own ghostly encounters.
Where: Fort Mifflin, 1 Fort Mifflin Road
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A post shared by PhilaLandmarks (@philalandmarks) on Oct 15, 2014 at 1:42pm PDT
A spooky adventure awaits at Grumblethorpe, the former summer home of the Wister family. The house is said to be haunted by the bloody spirit of British Gen. James Agnew, who was fatally wounded and died in the house during the Battle of Germantown. If the legends aren’t creepy enough to make visitors cower, the still-visible blood stain on the floor just might do the trick.
Where: Grumblethorpe, 5267 Germantown Avenue
One could argue that any cemetery could be haunted, but Laurel Hill is one of the oldest in the country and is filled with legendary “hot spots” of paranormal activity. The site offers a number of cool tours throughout the year, and visitors can walk through the grounds on their own — if they dare.
Where: Laurel Hill Cemetery, 3822 Ridge Avenue
The Moshulu, one of the world’s biggest and oldest four-mast sailing ships still in the water, now serves as a riverfront restaurant and bar. During the ship’s heyday, 28 people died at sea while aboard, and some theorists surmise that this morbid history might have something to do with the murmurs and hysterical laughter that the owner and staff have reported hearing. The vessel is said to be haunted by “The Lantern Ghost” — employees who open the restaurant report finding lanterns burning on the tables even after being extinguished.
Where: Moshulu, 401 S. Columbus Boulevard
Philadelphia’s notorious Mütter Museum satisfies visitors’ cravings for gruesome curiosities via its fascinating exhibits of frightening abnormal anatomical formations. Ancient body parts encased in jars, death casts and diseased organs are just a few examples of the kinds of creepy collections to expect. It’s unclear whether or not there are any spirits lingering or ghosts involved, but these bone-chilling exhibits definitely aren’t for the faint of heart.
Where: Mutter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, 19 S. 22nd Street
The Christ Church Burial Ground, where Benjamin Franklin is buried, is said to be haunted by the spirit of the famous Founding Father who once said, ”A penny saved is twopence dear.” He reportedly steals pocket change to this day and even throws pennies at vistiors.
Where: Christ Church Burial Ground, 340 N. 5th Street
Legend says that a respected historian and his wife both claimed to have seen ghosts of the Continental Army — including General Lafayette — and even the spirit of the lovely Peggy Shippen, the wife of Benedict Arnold, back in the 1960s at the Powel House. Ghost tours investigate paranormal activity that’s said to continue to this day.
Where: Powel House, 244 S. 3rd Street
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A post shared by David Dollins (@dmcrun99) on Feb 1, 2017 at 5:33pm PST
Some visitors claim to have seen a horse and carriage charging across the cemetery lawn at Saint Peter’s Episcopal Church, which is one heck of a ghost sighting! Deceased Native American chiefs are also said to roam around, and there’s a colonial African-American ghost, too. Brave souls can check out the site on their own or go with a group as part of the Spirits of ’76 Ghost Tour.
Where: St. Peter's Church, 313 Pine Street
Rumored to be one of the most haunted locations in all of Pennsylvania, this Solebury Township bridge dates back to 1875. The structure measures 86 feet long and is reportedly filled with spirits still lingering from deaths that have occurred here. Located close to Washington Crossing Historic Park, this spooky spot is at least worth the drive — even for spectators too chicken to get out of the car.
Where: Van Sant Covered Bridge, 131 Covered Bridge Road, New Hope
The Bishop White House at Third and Walnut streets was once the home of the chaplain to the Second Constitutional Convention and the U.S. Senate. During the yellow fever epidemic of 1793, White lost one of five house residents, as well as many more from within his ministry and charity clientele, to the disease. Those who visit today might feel the eerie phantom sensations that rangers have reported experiencing when they walk the site after dark.
Where: Bishop White House, 309 Walnut Street
Many stories persist of the ghost of Founding Father Benjamin Franklin seen climbing down from his statue at Library Hall and dancing in the streets of the Historic District. In addition to jovial spirit sightings, some say he can be found wandering through the building with an armful of books.
Where: American Philosophical Society Library, 105 S. 5th Street
An active military vessel until 1922, the Cruiser Olympia is now stationed at the Independence Seaport Museum at Penn’s Landing. Shadowy figures and tales of murder and suicide are said to have inspired a paranormal presence aboard the ship. Guests might encounter the famous ghost of “Gunner” Johnson during their visits. Look out for ghost tours often offered around Halloween.
Where: Independence Seaport Museum, 211 S. Columbus Boulevard
The former home of Dr. Phillip Syng Physick, the Father of American Surgery and the creator of the first carbonated soft drink in the United States, is said to be haunted by the ghost of his estranged wife, Elizabeth. Rumors persist that her spirit can be found crying near the site of her favorite tree, which was cut down shortly before her death.
Where: Hill-Physick House, 321 S. 4th Street
Washington Square served as a burial ground for fallen soldiers and victims of the yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia during the 18th century. Today, the square is said to be patrolled by the spirit of a woman named Leah, who protected the site from grave robbers centuries ago. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is lit by an eternal flame in honor of the Revolutionary War soldiers buried beneath the square.
Where: Washington Square, 217 W. Washington Square
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